Monday, May 13, 2013

Mackinac Island

Odometer 32150 miles
Trip meter- 0 miles

What a fun day!  The overnight temperature dropped to below freezing- just below- nothing seriously cold, and our heated hose kept us from any freeze-ups- but the day dawned bright and sunny ( and cold).
We debated going on the ferry to Mackinac Island and decided YES- lets's bundle up and go, and it was a good decision it turns out.

We boarded the Star Line in Mackinaw City at 11 AM for the 20 minute crossing to the island.  The ferry was far from capacity, with only about 7 of us on board- but by taking this time slot, we got an added trip out to the bridge before heading to the island.

You can see from the hats and warm coats that the temperature was cold and the 25 knot wind gave a chill you wouldn't believe.

 By the time we arrived at the Mackinac Bridge I was the only fool left topside- everyone else had gone down to the enclosed cabin.
 The water was a lot rougher than it looks here- I had to brace my legs against a bench to keep from being tossed around- water was spraying over the bow.
The bridge is 5 miles long, started in 1954 and finished in 1957.  From anchorage to anchorage it is still the longest supsension bridge in the western hemisphere.  The suspension towers are 552 feet above the waterline and the bridge deck is 200 feet above the lake.  Awesome to see up close!

Any ships that want to pass between Lake Michigan/Lake Huron have to pass beneath it.
 The ships also apparently have to thread the straights between Mackinac Island and Round Island, just to the south, meaning they pass very close to the harbor at Mackinac.

As we approached the island, I took this photo of the Grand Hotel that has been a vacation destination for 126 years!  It was $3-$5 a night back when it first opened in 1887- now days you can get a two night special for $1049 for a lake view room.

What's interesting is that this photo, as others I've seen makes it look like the hotel is real close to the beach- not so- as you see in later photos.

We docked in the port and had to hoof it anywhere we wanted to go.

By hoof it- I mean no "horseless carriages" are allowed on the island.  You either walk, bike or take a horse to your destination.
These carriages were everywhere, but it costs you $25 per perso to take advantage of them- so we found it just as easy and a lot less expensive to walk- and walk we did- miles and miles.  You can bring your own bike or rent bikes starting at $5/ hr if you'd like.  We have bikes, however with the wind chill today, we preferred the ability to duck into any shops that interested us and get warmed up.
Our first order of business was to look for a good place to have lunch.  Millie's Main Street looked like just the ticket.  Joan ordered whitefish and chips and I had a pasty.

Jeff's family is familiar with this staple of the local diet.  Pasties are meat, vegetables, and potato cooked and baked into a pastry dough "tart".  We usually didn't have gravy on ours- but when in Michigan....

After a hearty lunch we were ready to tackle the hills above down town, so we hiked up Spring Street alongside Fort Mackinac.  The original Fort Mackinac was built in the 1700s by the French on the mainland.   The British were ceded the territory by treaty, and occupied the fort in 1763.  Deemed un-defendable in the  1780s the fort was moved over to the island, and built out of limestone as seen here.  The British didn't relinquish the fort to the US until well after the Revolutionary War, they continued to occupy the fort  until 1796. 
 Since we had already been in Fort Castillo de San Marcos at St Augustine and in Fort Moultrie in Charleston we decided to pass up the fort and then continued up to the stables and carriage house behind the Grand Hotel.

With the island declared motor free this is one great depository of early carriages that may have otherwise gone to museums, or gone to dust.  Jeff had to be pried away by Joan or he may still be there.  Interestingly Jeff discovered that hydraulic disc brakes had been retrofitted to many of the coaches!

A trip to the island is not complete without the obligatory visit to the Grand Hotel, built as I said, in 1887, by a consortium of several railroads and a steamship company.  You are looking at what is thought to be the longest porch in the world- 660 feet long.

The hotel charges $10 each for addmission to walk on the grounds or to look into the foyer and see the long porch-  Unfortuately it is probably very interesting- but with all the expenses we've had this month, we just didn't think we could afford it this trip.  Joan and I kinda get that if you were a paying guest it would be quite upsetting to have lookie-lous traipsing all over the hotel- especially in the busy season.  Charging the fee probably keeps that to a manageable mob.

 We saw many great old houses and admired the early architecture- probably took way too many pictures!

By 3:30 we had seen all that we wanted and were ready to take the ferry back to Mackinaw City. 
We know that by coming to the island this early in the year it was unseasonably cold (50s with a COLD wind) however not having the crushing crowds we experienced at the historic sites we visited on the eastern seaboard- this was well worth bundling up against the cold.  The weather calls for clouds and 30% chance of showers for tomorrow- so having a sunny day today was priceless!

 The trip back by ferry took 20 minutes and the wind and lake swells made for an exciting ride. As we neared the docks on the mainland we passed the old Coast Guard ice breaker Mackinaw which has now been docked for good and turned into a museum.
If I don't get a chance to see it tomorrow I know I will someday..

Your Traveling Friends

Jeff and Joan

1 comment:

  1. hi Joan and 'Gator
    We're still following the adventures of The Great Road Trip of '12-'13
    Guess I need a new nickname for a frozen 'Gator,
    Hmmmm, I'll keep working on it!